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Posted at 2:51 PM ET, 10/ 8/2009

Teachers, Scientists and The Dalai Lama Hold a Different Kind of Education Conference

By Valerie Strauss

An education conference began in the nation’s capital today, but it was not about standardized tests, national content standards, merit pay for teachers or charter schools.

Educators, scientists, the Dalai Lama and others came together to discuss how to cultivate in students some qualities not normally given much attention in most schools: social responsibility, self-control, compassion.

The conversation, which included educator Linda Darling-Hammond and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman, focused on how to teach young people to be responsible to other individuals and to society as adults--a topic you might think should be common in the world of education but sadly is all too rare.

“Cultivating compassion is not something this country thinks about doing,” said psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence, and the moderator of today’s first session.

At a time when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is handing out billions of dollars in federal funds to help education reform efforts, it is fair to wonder whether any of the money will go toward things more basic than reading and writing: whether kids can see the blackboard, eat regularly and be secure that they will not be bullied or harmed on the way to school. Or inside it.

Education reform that misses these essentials cannot work--but policymakers and even school administrators seem to ignore that.

“I don’t understand how the idea that learning reliable ways both traditional and untraditional for cultivating positive qualities of heart and mind is somehow controversial,” said Willoughby Britton, a researcher at Brown University’s Contemplative Studies Initiative, who is attending the conference. “...It seems so obvious, but why is it such a hard sell?”

Lest you think this is some out-of-the mainstream event, look at some of the co-sponsors: The schools of education at Harvard University, Stanford University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. George Washington University’s College of Arts and Sciences is on the list, too, as is the American Psychological Association.

The opening session brought together the Dalai Lama with some well-known child advocates.

They included Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford who launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and the School Redesign Network, and was asked by President Obama to lead the search for his secretary of education.

Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, a professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan, were on stage too, as was Matthieu Ricard, a cellular biologist who became a Buddhist monk.

Duncan was scheduled to appear on a panel with the Dalai Lama at a session today on attention, how to regulate emotions and learning, but withdrew for family reasons.

Duncan has repeatedly discussed his interest in the connection between mind and body--though his administration has disappointed educators interested in approaches to teaching the whole child. Many see his efforts as little more than a continuation of the Bush administration’s emphasis on high stakes standardized testing.

That was not on today’s agenda Empowering children was.

“Teaching compassion is not just a word,” The Dalai Lama said. “It is through your actions that you develop compassion.”

Eccles discussed a research project that took some 7th-graders who were behind in school and on the road to dropping out, and gave them the job of tutoring first-graders.

“An unbelievable thing happened,” she said. “The entire group went through high school.”

How did it happen? The students sharpened their own reading skills in order to teach the first-graders, and in the process developed enough self-confidence to realize that they could be successful at school.

Darling-Hammond, asked to discuss concrete ways of teaching compassion, related something that teachers trained at Stanford are always taught: How to start each relationship with a student by finding something positive to say and reach out to the family in the same way. Developing schools that give teachers the time and freedom to do this is essential, she said.

Those wondering what the Dalai Lama has to do with all of this should know that he has been involved in education efforts for decades. He is a co-founder of the Mind and Life Institute, which brings together science with traditional Buddhist theories and practices on the nature of the mind.

And no, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to learn something here. It’s not about religion.

“If you are not holy and you are happy, good!” The Dalai Lama said. The crowd laughed.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 8, 2009; 2:51 PM ET
Categories:  Civics Education, Intelligence, National Standards, Teachers  | Tags:  Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Marian Wright Edelman, The Dalai Lama, school reform  
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Today is the memorial anniversary of Thubten Jigme Norbu, elder brother to His Eminence, the Dalai Llama and retired Professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University, who passed to the next life in a happy, successful death on September 5th, 2008. It is fitting that he be remembered here and his spirit invoked for the success of this conference.

His Student

Posted by: waltonr1 | October 8, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Professor Nobu was hardly an educator. He was more akin to his brother and would more likely send you to his Serf Hall Of Education as to give you a degree in stupidity.
Talk about endoctrination. I would no more allow my children within a mile of this Devil Worshipping Theocratic Dictator, who ruined millions of Tibetans by ruling as any other hard headed dictator dealing out mutilations to the Peasants to keep them kowtowing to His Hollywoodness.
Personally, I prefer that religion and state, stay apart, but since this man is not religious, I would simply deny him a visa to our country as he is a wanted criminal with crimes against humanity. Read your history,this man is a fraud stealing money from the uninformed.

Posted by: thomascanada | October 8, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse ?v=Y_2Iws_4IgQ&feature=relat ed

The Dalai Lama said the award encourages him, at 74, to dedicate the rest of his life to the "promotion of human affection and compassion, and equality and basic human rights in Tibet, or in mainland China, or everywhere.
Sounds familiar for someone who owned 6,000 Serfs as he was running away from his people when they needed him most. The Panchen Lama stayed and came back to serve his people again.
He took the heat and the Dalia fled.
What does this say about a coward Thar he was afraid of death.
Another Buddha attribute he does not share with Buddhas.

Posted by: thomascanada | October 8, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

We've come a long way in such a short time. It's true after all that the darker moment of night is just before dawn. When I think of the nightmare of the persecution unleashed only a couple of winters ago, the fear those poor monks had to go through, the fear in the lay communities of those unfortunate Tibetans, the false Schism in the Sangha forcibly fabricated by the political power of the TGIE ... what a dark, dark moment! And now look, such glorious morning.
So it's great to recall the efforts of those who were able to stop at least the gross abuse, that wonderful union between the WSS and the Tibetan monks during the demonstrations, and all the efforts, secret and open, of all those who helped during that terrible moment. I think we writers and bloggers and webmasters can be quite happy and rejoice in our efforts.
No doubt we have to remain vigilant, and also to forgive without forgetting. No forgetting in order not to repeat errors of the past, mainly the mixing of religion and politics.
May we now concentrate in our practice and all Dharma endeavors.
Thank you Wisdombuddha.
May the precious teachings of Lord Buddha and of Lord Tsonkapa's lineage proliferate, may we practitioners of this most fortunate and pure lineage quickly become omniscient Buddhas to benefit all our mothers without exception. May all goodness expand to the end of space.
There's nothing that the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan Government in Exile can do to eradicate the practice of Protector Dorje Shugden because it's not within their power to do so, any more than it is within their power to stop the sun from rising every morning. Because he is a Wisdom Buddha, all beings will continue receive his care and protection and his practice will spread throughout the world, like the beneficial rays of the sun.

Posted by: thomascanada | October 8, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The actual position of Dalai Lama is one of the least understood aspects of Tbetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism. HHDL is not the head of any of the four orders. He is the political leader and, by virtue of tradition, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people (though the word leader may be a misnomer considering his efforts to stigmatize Shugdenpas). The Ganden Tri is the head of the Gelug order. Gelugpas are much more strongly influenced by the Ganden Tri than HHDL. And the other orders accept that HHDL must be dealt with politically but his influence on Kagyu, Sakya and Nyingma matters is minimal, at best. His most ardent supporters within any of the four schools are primarily anti-Shugden. In the years of his absence from actually sitting on the Ganden throne at Shartse, a portrait of Dorje Shugden has occupied the throne.

Posted by: thomascanada | October 8, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

"House Approves Hate-Crimes Measure as Part of Defense Funding"
Great News! Now we can nail this Hate-Mongering Dalia Lama for spewing hate against Shugden People for Hundreds of years. It is all in the history and the words that come out of his mouth. Words which have been recorded for posterity and his trial inn the High Courts Of Shimla India for HATE_CRIMES against the sentient beings.
Obama did not like the Dalia trying an end run and messing with our Nations' Affairs.
DL's photo opt with Pelosi did irreparable damage to the Pro Tibet People.
No one likes to get Hussled, especially an Hawaiian like Barack Obama, who will drop this Lama like a side show trick.

Posted by: thomascanada | October 8, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

The conference aimed to begin a dialogue in education about how to prepare children to be more successful, socially responsible and compassionate in the 21st century. I think Thomas in Canada is exhibit 1 in the need for such education in the world.

Posted by: marley41 | October 10, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

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